GDB 20.0: BATTLING THE BLUES

Gotta love the passion of Oilers fans. Screaming, pointing, worried and concerned about one of their players, and tonight you’ll do the same as the Oilers look to finish the first third of their nine-game road trip on a high note in St. Louis.

The Oilers shouldn’t have got a point in Chicago, but they did. They never win in Dallas, but they did. Tonight they will look for their first back-to-back road wins on consecutive nights since December 1st and 2nd of 2010 when they beat the Habs 4-3 in OT and then spanked the Leafs 5-0.

The Oilers have been incredibly streaky the past few years. Usually the streaks don’t go their way, but when they play as well as they did last night, they’ve been able to maintain that for a few games. The Oilers deserved to win last night, and if they give the same effort tonight they’ll have an excellent chance to put themselves right in the playoff mix.

An Oiler regulation win and a Minnesota loss would put the Oilers in a tie with LA, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Jose and Dallas with 22 points. Tied for 6th to 11th. The western conference is tight like first night and it will probably stay that way the entire month of March.

Last year the Blues won with stingy defence and stellar goaltending, but this year their goalies have been average and the Blues are giving up almost one more goal per game than last year. In 2012 they led the NHL with a 1.89 GAA, but this year they sit 18th at 2.84. The Oilers are 13th at 2.58 and currently they have the better goaltender.

Devan Dubnyk is 10th in SV% amongst goalies who have started at least ten games.

He has a very respectable 0.921 SV% in 15 starts.

The Blues goalies are barely treading water:

Jaroslav Halak: 8 starts and a 0.904 SV%
Jake Allen:         4 starts and a 0.895 SV%
Brian Elliott:       7 starts and a 0.849 SV%

Halak will start for the Blues. The interesting thing about the Blues goaltending is that they don’t face many shots. The Blues are allowing a league-best 22.9 shots against/game. The Oilers are 29th in shots allowed at 33.5/game.

Last year the Blues were also first in shots against/game at 26.7, but Elliot had a 0.940 SV% in 36 starts, while Halak had a 0.926 in 46 starts. Amazing how different things look from year to year.

LINEUP

Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle
Jones/Gagner/Hemsky
Smyth/Belanger/Yakupov
Eager/Vande Velde/Petrell

The only lineup change we might see is Magnus Paajarvi slotting in for Ryan Smyth. Krueger hinted earlier he might give his veteran a night off during back-to-back games, but considering how strong the team played last night I doubt he makes the switch. Jones is a little sore after the Benn crosscheck, but he will dress.

Smid/Petry
N.Schultz/J.Schultz
Peckham//Whitney

Potter left the game after his head hit the boards, and Mark Fistric has a sore elbow so Ryan Whitney and Theo Peckham will draw in.

Dubnyk

QUICK HITS

  • I am taking a hiatus from talking about Magnus Paajarvi. At this point he isn’t more effective than Ryan Jones or Ryan Smyth. He isn’t better offensively than Eberle, Hall, Yakupov or Hemsky, and his game is not suited to being an energy guy who plays physical on the fourth line. I’d much rather play him 20 minutes a night in OKC than sit in the pressbox or play 10-11 minutes when he does draw in.
     
  • That doesn’t mean he won’t be an NHL player soon, I just don’t see where he fits in on this roster when everyone is healthy. It doesn’t make sense to me to have a 21-year-old playing 11 minutes a night or sitting in the pressbox, when he could be playing PP, PK and ES in the minors.
     
  • For those who believe advanced stats always tell the truth, is it possible that Paajarvi is a better advanced stat player, but Jones produces more on-ice production? I know this might be really crazy to believe, but is is possible possession metrics aren’t perfect. Maybe they don’t tell the entire story. Just a thought.
     
  • When the Oilers inevitably trade one or two of their forwards, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good players. Many good and even great players have been dealt. The key isn’t who they move, it is who they get in return. They are past the point of trading for picks and prospects. They need to acquire proven NHL talent.
     
  • The Senators, Jets, Habs and Leafs are playing well. If the Oilers can get on a roll how awesome would it be to have six Canadian teams in the playoffs. I don’t see a scenario this year that has both Calgary and Edmonton making it, so there won’t be seven, but it would be great to see six of 16 playoff teams reside in Canada.
     
  • Oiler fans are going to have a field day with the Ryan O’Reilly saga. It turns out that because O’Reilly played two games in Russia after the season started, so he would have had to clear waivers if the Avalanche hadn’t matched the Flames offer sheet. Meaning the Flames would have lost their two picks and O’Reilly to waivers. Wow, Oiler fans will chuckle while Flames fans will be groaning. Great scope by Chris Johnson from Sportsnet. Story is here.
     
  • The new CBA allows a team to sign one of their own RFA or draft picks out of Europe during the season without making them subject to waivers. This is a new rule in the CBA. It is rule 13:23 if you are a CBA fanatic.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Many asked me to keep picking against the Oilers on this trip since they already have 3 of 4 points. I don’t buy into that at all, but since it is Positive Friday I’ll play along. Blues win 3-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: All the single Nation readers down at the Pint off Whyte for the Nation’s 5th Birthday party will miss most of the first period trying a variety of unique unsuccessful pick up lines on Arianny Celeste.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nail Yakupov and Vladimir Tarasenko are tied for third in rookie goal scoring with six goals, but instead of scoring they will shock everyone and drop the mitts after they get into a lengthy verbal sparring match. No one on the ice will have a clue what they said to get each other riled up, but both benches get fired up watching them exchange blows. After the game both wouldn’t divulge what they discussed on the ice, but a lip reader will tweet the exchange.

Yakupov: "Let’s show Plums that Russians know how to fight."
Tarasenko: "His name isn’t Plums, it is Prunes."
Yakupov: "What ever we need to show him that Russians punch better than Semin."
Tarasenko: "I heard your sister is in the country now, can you give me her number so I can see her when we come to Edmonton."
Yakupov: "That is onside man, way onside. You want to go for a kayak ride?"
Tarasenko: "First plums, now onside and kayak instead of offside and canoe. Your English worse than sister’s kiss."
Both drop gloves and fans from both teams love the emotion from their youngsters. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Ducey

    St. Louis will be a real test………this team consistently drafts big players who can skate. We consistently draft small players who can skate. Should be a good test based on different drafting philosophies.

    Good to see Peckham back in the line up……..this guy has been unfairly handled by Krueger based on conditioning? If weight is such a critical indicator fo performance, then why does Byfugelin play so well at 260lbs?

    Hope that Peckham can prove all his critics wrong………we need more tough guys who keep opposition players honest.

  • Milli

    Positive Friday that for sure! Ha, Feaster, I mean come on that is GOLD, PURE GOLD! I’m saying the Oil win tonite, win big, let’s say 4-1! And, The Lames Owner decides to lock the smartest GM in hockey up long term with a Dipietro like contract…..with similar results of course!!!!!

  • Alsker

    Its positive Friday so heres to a good B-day party tonite and a great barnburner of a game with the Oil winning 5-4..as for Calgary with all that egg on their face its not worth rubbing it in..YET

  • vetinari

    I honestly thought that Colorado would consider taking the picks since they would have to qualify O’Reilly at $6.5M in two years, and Calgary’s first rounder may be a top 10 pick in a heavy draft year.

    I didn’t know about that waiver thing but I would have done cartwheels if: 1.) before matching the offer, Colorado or someone else announced that Calgary forgot about the waiver rule; 2.) Colorado made Calgary wait the full week to match or pass and slipped below them in the standings in the meantime; and 3.) Colorado (or someone else) lower in the rankings made a waiver claim for O-Reilly and snatched him from Calgary. It would have been the very definition of LMFAO… sadly, the Flames still finished ahead of us in the rankings for the last three and a half years.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I thought the Oilers were supposedly interested in Sestito. I would have been even happier to get him than Volpatti.

    Hilarious to hear how stupid the Flames are. Too bad the Avalanche matched, that would have been a huge blunder by the flames to basically give their 1st and 3rd away for nothing.

    As for tonight, the Blues will likely be in a foul mood. They haven’t played well lately and you know that Hitchcock has been tearing into them. It will be importan to weather the storm tonight. I trust our goaltender more right now so I will say the Oilers keep it going and win 3-2. GO OILERS GO!!

    • A-Mc

      While it wouldnt happen:

      It would have been perfect if the Avs didnt match, O’Reilly goes on Wavers and the Avs claim him.

      1st round pick, 3rd round pick, and O’Reilly to the Avs. Calgary; Crying.

  • Milli

    “I know this might be really crazy to believe, but is is possible possession metrics aren’t perfect. Maybe they don’t tell the entire story.”

    Gregor, folks who understand hockey advanced stats assume as much.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Tonight they will look for their first back-to-back road wins on consecutive nights since December 1st and 2nd of 2010 when they beat the Habs 4-3 in OT and then spanked the Leafs 5-0.

    I remember that well. Ales carried the team then he hurt his shoulder.
    That was last good he played till this year.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    I like the forward lines. When Horcoff’s back, slide Belanger down to replace VV on the 4th line and this line up looks pretty good. Really like Jones with Gagner and Hemsky and I think Yak will benefit a lot playing with 10 and 94.

    Oilers win 5-4!

  • Phixieus666

    Blues are a much bigger team, played last night. If the Oil can keep the pace up early I think the Blues could wear down fast. I’m going to say 4-1 oilers as Dubby has another stellar performance.

  • northof51

    Canucks claimed Tom Sestito from the Flyers – kinda surprised Edm. didn’t put a claim in on him since they put one in on Volpatti.

    Huge winger who can skate and throw ’em – sounds like it would have been worth a look see

    • Phixieus666

      Oil management are retards, might as well hand the reins over to a bunch of toddlers, they might know how to dial a phone more that the current staff.

      Nothing these guys do make much sense. Like scouting for the national team while your current team still sucks. Just gonna throw it out there team canada wont get gold with these twits at the helm.

      • vetinari

        you are the retard, might as well hand the reins over to a monkey because im pretty sure a monkey can use google better than you.

        maybe if he had played more than 34 games in 6 years and was actually good.

        the oil need a top 6 big guy who can score not a 1 minute a night 4th line depth player.

  • A-Mc

    Tarasenko has a concussion I thought, but the suggested dialogue with him and Yak is pure gold.

    With the blues confidence down, goaltending way below it’s norm, and the team tired from back to backs…and the Oilers starting to learn how to beat defensive teams (see game vs. Phoenix), and on a big high from last night, I say the Oilers get 3 goals in the first, but then trail off and fight to hold on…

    3-2 Oilers.

  • northof51

    You are on a roll Jason Gregor. I agree with your thought on advanced stats and MPS.

    Hartikainen and MPS can not do for the team what Petrell and Jones can right now.

    • northof51

      @Will

      I can’t speak for Gregor, but I’m guessing he knew that, which makes the NSOGDP even funnier. Clearly he doesn’t take those things seriously. That was one of the funniest ones yet…

      “That is onside man, way onside.” Hilarious stuff Gregor.

      • A-Mc

        Don’t get me wrong, super funny. Moreover, I now want, nay, need Yak to start threatening other players with taking a kayak trip.

        As for Tarasenko out, as an Oiler fan I’m kind of glad some of their top guns are out as we get set to play them on this road trip. But, as a hockey fan I’m kind of sad I won’t get to see what Tarasenko could have done in a full rookie season. Much like I was sad to see Nuge go down last year and miss the Calder.

        Having said that, I really didn’t care about Crosby as that news story was just so boring, and I see now that he’s back the TSN concussion watch stories aren’t really being played up anymore.

        Regardless, Kayak rides yes, Oilers beating the Blues tonight yes, not getting to see the two Russian roomikes square off, kind of sucks.

  • Al Davis

    I thought Tarasenko was out with a concussion injury and is listed as unsure when he will return? As for Oilers at Blues tonight, should be pretty good as both teams are on their second of back to backs. The Blues, as the Oilers, are a little depleted. Winning in Dallas last night should be big as it shows there are no curses, just games.

    I predict a bit of a reversal from last night 4-2 Oilers win, all gaols coming on the power play except for the empty netter scored by Yak.

    Not so obvious game day prediction, Yak get his first hat trick and because it’s against Halak the head line reads “Hail-Yak”, or conversely both Hall and Yak run the show for a similar title of “Hall-Yak”.

  • Al Davis

    That sound you just heard was the advanced stats guys heads exploding over the thought of MPV being sent back down to the minors.

    I would really like to see Nuge get rewarded for his stellar defensive play this evening. A goal and an assist or two would be very nice to see for the young lad.

  • A-Mc

    What a lucky break for Whitney and Peckham! I was thinking that if Fistric was still in, that Peckham might be in infront of Whitney.

    LOL at Yak vs Tarasenko

    GDP: Oiler’s lose this one in OT, taking away a pt. Score 3-2 for St.L